Commentary Magazine


Movies vs. Films

To the Editor:

In a single article, Manny Farber [“The Fading Movie Star,” July ’63] . . . managed to list ten or twelve of the worst ham performers ever to appear on screen as his nostalgic favorites and to reject the same number of the best of our current actors. Nostalgia is a commendable asset when one is referring to old sweethearts or memories of times gone by, but it is a dangerous ingredient in critical articles.

The films and performances praised . . . include Lee Tracy’s horrendous wooden acting in Dinner at Eight, Wallace Beery’s standard gum-and-scenery chewing act in the same film and, heaven save us, John (The Man with the Iron Mask) Wayne in a film as bad as Liberty Valance. Others whom Mr. Farber seems to enjoy are Rooney and Joan Crawford—neither of whom has managed to act in forty years! Against these “stars” Mr. Farber bangs away at Jeanne Moreau, Vitti, Quinn, O’Toole, and Mastroianni, who—among others—have helped give the film its current status in the arts.

. . . Mr. Farber yearns for the false declamations of actors who were not actors but vaudeville acts. In its infancy, film was a novelty that accepted the spurious and the phoney. The films and performances of the past just don’t stand up (i.e. Barrymore in Bill of Divorcement)—a. gala performance by Farber standards, but laughable when viewed against Thulin in Winter Light. Our generation is bringing forth a new breed of film actor, capable of creating and communicating a brilliant sense of reality—and adding to it an art that has given the word “acting” a new distinction.

Lee R. Bobker
New York City

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